Be Careful What You Wish For

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"I DIDN'T MEAN IT!"


"So this is it; this is what I wished for; just isn't how I envisioned it..."

...you just might get it.

If a character expresses a wish that things were different and actually gets what they wished for, it is very possible that the results will not live up to their fantasies.

The circumstances can vary on how the wish is made, then consequently granted. The character making the wish may or may not have known that it was actually going to be granted, and the thing which grants it may be anything, depending on the genre—a wish-granting Genie who wants to show the character the error of their ways or just plain wants them to suffer; a sudden appearance by Louis Cypher ready to offer a Deal with the Devil; a tour through an Alternate Timeline; or even just an ironic twist of fate. The "deal breaker" that makes the wish not worth it also comes in a lot of possible flavors: maybe the character finds out that to get what they wanted they must give up something even more important to them; maybe the element of their life they wanted gone is really essential to who they are; maybe their wish has consequences they haven't thought of—or maybe they find out that It's the Journey That Counts and that Wanting Is Better Than Having.

This is an elementary form of Deconstruction - The character wants X, and then they find out X has unpleasant unanticipated consequences. Thus, X is deconstructed—the plot shows that X isn't as great as you think it is, and in fact may not be what you actually want at all. Nine times of ten this is an outright Aesop, though strictly speaking it doesn't have to be. A crucial element of playing that angle well is making the "deal breaker" a meaningful, inherent flaw to the original wish rather than something tacked on or that could have easily turned out differently if the character had more common sense. Otherwise, a Broken Aesop is almost guaranteed.

Often a cause of Blessed with Suck, though not the only one; wont to count as an Opinion-Changing Dream; Contains the same type of irony as Ironic Hell. In some cases the experience may lead the wisher to discover an Awful Truth.

Sub-Trope of Be Careful What You Say.

Super-Trope of It's a Wonderful Plot, I Wish It Was Real, I Wished You Were Dead and Rhetorical Request Blunder.

Compare Gone Horribly Right, when science or logic is involved rather than wishes.

Contrast the Literal Genie, which ignores the intent of the wish in favor of the exact words; this trope is about the complications that arise when you get exactly what you wanted, rather than exactly what you said. A Jerkass Genie is likely to cause this to happen, if he doesn't just twist your words entirely.

Examples of Be Careful What You Wish For include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Arisa takes this trope and tweaks it. Rather than the wishes themselves that are messed up, it's the desire to have one's wishes granted. Most of the people are overlooking the obvious with rationalizations of "it could never happen to me" until it actually does, making selfish and arbitrary wishes without considering the side-effects. that is, rather than being about wish corruption, it's about the corruption by wishes (having your desires constantly fulfilled). Understandably, the entire class as a result is just a few shades short of psychopathy.
  • Hohenheim of Fullmetal Alchemist spends his entire long life (over 400 years) wishing his life would end. When the end finally comes, however, he wishes he would not die yet.
    • Father heartily lauds how Truth gives humans despair when they get conceited, to keep them in line. Then, following a long, action-packed sequence of events, he winds up in front of Truth himself, who reminds Father of his exact words, and points out how conceited Father was to think he could absorb a god. He gets plenty of despair.
    • Al and Ed wanted to see Shou Tucker's talking Chimera. They find out just what goes into making a talking chimera. They want to kill the bastard after seeing what goes into a talking chimera.
    • The King of Xerxes wanted to live forever. He got his wish as one of the tortured souls in Father's body.
    • Human transmutation is wrought with this. By the laws of alchemy, it is forbidden, since the value of human life is immeasurable, so attempting it will cause those involved to lose that which was most precious to them. When Izumi attempted it to revive her stillborn child, she lost her reproductive organs. When Ed and Al tried it to revive their mother, Ed lost his leg and his brother.
  • In Bleach, Aizen tries to help Ichigo get stronger because he wants a Worthy Opponent. Well, he got what he asked for... right through his stupid face.
    • Ichigo tells Keigo after he loses his powers that he always wanted a normal life...then sees the folly of that when Ginjo and Xcution start messing up his life.
  • The series Asatte no Houkou begins with a single (well, double) instance of this, with a dash of Swapped Roles. The rest of the series consists of the characters dealing with the results.
  • Making wishes under the old sakura tree in Da Capo can have major consequences. For some it's even worse though when those wishes get reverted.
  • The 'Suruga Monkey' arc of Bakemonogatari initially appears to be a minor twist on the traditional story of the Monkey's Paw (the twist being that the paw has grafted itself to its owner's arm) but turns out to be rather more of a twist than usual. The owner's first wish was to run faster than her classmates to stop them from laughing at her; everyone in the class faster than her was mysteriously beaten up the day before the athletics carnival. The real twist is that the paw isn't a Monkey's Paw, it belongs to a malevolent spirit called a Rainy Devil that grants your true subconscious wish- even though Kanbaru wished to run faster than her classmates she really wanted revenge on them, so the Rainy Devil possessed her and beat them up. Things get worse when the sempai she had a long-term crush on gets a boyfriend. The final twist is that after granting her third wish, the Rainy Devil will take her soul.
  • The Rayearth OVA starts this way - the heroines fear their graduation, as they will be separated. So they wish something prevents this... then all the mayhem starts.
  • The scientists in Utawarerumono wanted to live forever. Unfortunately Iceman was basically a god and they just REALLY pissed him off, so he gave them all bodies that would be immortal by turning them all into red jelly.
  • In D.Gray-man, the unlucky Miranda Lotto loses her one hundredth job. She says: "Day after day, things always go wrong for me. I wish tomorrow would never come." What's the problem? Her Innocence-superpowered clock hears it, and it grants her wish. The whole town where she lives gets stuck in October 9 for more than a month.
  • Quite a few Franken Fran stories end this way. One, for example, has a modern Elizabeth Bathory asking for eternal youth and eternal life. Fran gave her what she wants by turning all of her cells into the one type of cell that isn't programmed to die: Cancer Cells.
    • Actually Fran just gave her what she wanted. The Women went way overboard with the treatment and Fran was trying to warn her when it was too late. Still an example but not Fran's fault.
  • xxxHolic features a chapter and episode involving a monkey's paw, which, as in the original W. W. Jacobs short story, grants wishes for its holder - five wishes in this case, one for each finger of the mummified paw, which break one at a time as wishes are granted. Also as in the original story, the young woman who gets hold of the paw finds her wishes backfiring on her, particularly when she thoughtlessly wishes that there would be a railway accident so that her lateness would be excused, causing a bystander to be suddenly pushed in front of the train. The paw and her own careless wishes end up killing her.
  • Definately the instance that most people think of in the Dragon Ball franchise is when Perfect Cell, wanting to get a good fight before he destroys the Earth, hears from Gohan who, not wanting to fight, will let loose and kill him if Cell pushes him too hard. Cell, being Cell, goes ahead with that anyways, pulling some heavy Kick the Dog moments by nearly killing the rest of the cast and killing Android 16, and which pushes Gohan to go Super Saiyan 2 and beat Cell half to death and drive him to Villainous Breakdown. Gohan even invokes the whole trope by pointing to Cell that him letting loose is what Cell wanted in the first place.
  • General Wolf of Monster comes to regret asking Johan how he's feeling. Johan can't put it into words, so he demonstrates it by killing everyone close to the general. This lets the General feel Johan's own isolation.
    • This trope happens to be the one that catalyzes the real story for Tenma, and thus the entire series. Tenma, after being demoted by the corrupt hospital director for saving a patient and dumped by the director's daughter, states that his superiors "would be better off dead" to that same supposedly comatose patient. Should've thought that one out better; turns out his patient, Johan, is a sociopathic mass murderer who would gladly oblige such a request.
    • There were experiments done on children to create an emotionless and perfect killing machine. Then, Johan became one of the experiment subjects.
  • Mostly subverted in Ah! My Goddess. Goddesses grant wishes to humans, and they don't try and cheat them out of anything. It does, however, apply when a demon is granting a wish, since A; they might cheat you on it, and B; they will ask for something in return proportionate to the wish, though according to Hild at least, that means a demon won't ever grant a wish to destroy the world, since no mortal could possibly have anything to offer of equal value to that wish.
  • Zelgadis of Slayers wishes to be strong. And then he gets his wish. And it sucks.
    • Actually, it's a funny case with Zel. He mentions that he could've lived with the effects if he wasn't being used as a guinea pig for his grandfather Rezo.
  • Fushigi Yuugi Especially in the manga, Miaka wishes to be rid of her problems with school and her mother, and that there was a god she could pray to. Well, in a way, she gets her wish: she is in an alternate dimension where there is no school, and she gets to be the priestess to a god in this dimension. But, it's not all roses. She's in a Cast Full of Pretty Boys, but she has Virgin Power. She is constantly getting the Distress Ball, too. Oh, and then there's that whole thing about the Beast God consuming his priestess' body and soul as she makes her wishes.
  • In Nightmare Inspector, Hiruko often lets the dreamer's wishes be fulfilled. Whether they were actually beneficial to the dreamer is an entirely different question ...
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Professor Cobra wanted to be reunited with his dead son. Yubel promised to do so. He thought that meant she would bring him back to life. She/He had other ideas, consisting of erasing the memory that his son died in the first place and dropping Cobra to his death. But, hey, if you believe in the afterlife... Yubel was like that about a lot of things.
  • This is a very important theme in Tenshi ni Narumon where the strength of one of the main characters' wish almost erases him and other two individuals from existence.
  • Analyzed in Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Kyubey grants wishes in exchange for the wishee becoming a Magical Girl and fighting monsters for him. The problems that arise from the granting of the wish aren't exactly because of the wish itself, or from Kyubey - while he's not exactly trustworthy, he has no incentive to screw with peoples' wishes. The problem is the person making the wish is almost never honest about what they really wanted. Veteran Magical Girls repeatedly warn potential ones against the perils of a selfless wish, and that's part of what makes it so tragic: there are no selfless wishes. Every selfless wish has a selfish motive behind it, and seeing the chance for that selfish desire slipping away with the rising happiness of someone else sends a Magical Girl deeper into despair... which is, of course, what Kyubey wants.
  • In Himitsu no Akko-chan, (the original version from 1969), the titular heroine, Akko-chan, upon meeting a deaf-mute kid, asks her magic mirror to turn her into a deaf-mute version of herself, reasoning that, after her brush with disability, she'll be able to restore herself with a second wish. However, since the mirror works only by clearly enunciated utterances, and since it was enough literal to strip Akko-chan of the ability to speak at all, the unfortunate wishee finds herself deaf, voiceless and cut off of her power source. She gets better later, though, as the Reset Button simply presses itself after imparting a much needed Aesop.
  • Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 begins with the narrator saying she hates Tokyo and wishes it would just break, the whole city. Cue the titular earthquake.
  • In Pretty Cure All Stars DX 3, Hibiki wishes Hummy would disappear after she crashes a fashion show featuring Tsubomi, Erika, Itsuki and Yuri. At the end of the movie, she does - along with the rest of the Precure's mascots. They come back, though.
  • Goku from Saiyuki thinks it would be okay if he died. WAIT HE DIDN'T MEAN THIS SECOND!


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • In Avril Lavigne's Make 5 Wishes since there is no Reset Button at the end. Protagonist Hana, having used up all five wishes and finding herself no better off, maybe even worse, than at the beginning of the story, decides to jump off a bridge so as to get rid of the demon Romeo and prevent his magic from harming anyone ever again. Romeo somehow escapes from the box before they reach the riverbed, claiming that he "can't die." The last page shows a news report saying that Hana's body has still not been found.
  • "Wish You Were Here", a 1953 story from the EC Comics horror title The Haunt of Fear, uses a variation of {{The Monkeys Paw story: A businessman's wife discovers an enchanted Chinese figurine and wishes for a fortune. Learning that her husband was killed while driving to his lawyer's office (after naming her the beneficiary of a generous life insurance policy) and remembering what happened in The Monkey's Paw, she wishes for him to be brought back to the way he was "just before the accident"; unfortunately, he's still a corpse since his actual death was due to a heart attack. She uses the third and final wish to make him "alive now, alive forever!"...which condemns him to eternal pain and agony, since his dead body had been embalmed. Even her hacking him to tiny bits can't put him out of his misery. (The comic was later adapted for the 1972 movie anthology: Tales From The Crypt.)
  • Played with in Knights of the Dinner Table. When given the opportunity for a Wish, resident Rules Lawyer Brian pulls out a 20-page legal document he's been carrying around for just such an opportunity. It's so complex that the Dungeon Master has to call several other DMs to help him interpret it.
    • Ultimately, B.A. is able to invoke this trope. While the wish was airtight the immortality granted to Brian leaves a vengeful deity he previously pissed off free to attack him with full force. Fortunately for Brian, a clause of the wish stated that if he died as a direct consequence of the wish, all effects of the wish would be undone and Brian would get a 25,000 gp consolation prize.
      • That DM needs to work on being more killer, if he's immortal he technically cannot die. "And I must scream" anyone?
      • Just rephrase it: "If I experience any loss of ability as a direct or indirect consequence of my wish, all effects of the wish should be undone and I should receive 25,000 gp as a consolation prize".
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation comic "Artificiality", Captain Picard, at a crewmember's funeral, wishes that all of his crew were as durable as Data. Q obliges him by turning the whole crew into Soong-type androids.
  • This tends to happen quite often in the Grimm Fairy Tales comic series.
  • The 2011 "Heart of the Monster" arc in The Incredible Hulks is built around this trope - Hulk and his team encounter a Wishing Well. Everyone involved is Genre Savvy enough to know what it will twist every wish it grants. What they don't know is the intentions of the Red She-Hulk, who used it to wish doom on her ex-husband.... if she meant it, his circumstances are going to improve, but if she liked him... As it turns out, she hated him at the time, meaning all of his dreams briefly came true.
  • Subverted by Garfield:

Garfield: Reruns! Yesterday's news... Leftovers! There's never anything new around here!
Jon: Run for your life! The plumbing backed up, and thousands of piranha are spawning in the toilet!!
Garfield: Again?!


Fairy Tales[edit | hide]

  • King Midas. A notoriously greedy man, he once made a wish that everything he touched would turn to gold. When his wish was granted, he was ecstatic... at least until the first time he tried to eat something. In another version of the story, he turns his daughter into gold. Thus this is Older Than Feudalism.
  • In The Twelve Wild Ducks, a queen says, "If I only had a daughter as white as snow and as red as blood, I shouldn't care what became of all my sons." A troll witch hears and takes her sons.
  • In The Seven Ravens, the father wishes his sons were ravens for their being so forgetful. (To add to the irony, he was mistaken about why they hadn't done as he said.)
  • In The Myrtle, a woman wishes for a child, even a sprig of myrtle.
  • In Hans the Hedgehog, the father wishes for a son, even a hedgehog.
  • Similar stories went around in seventeenth century England. In some cases a Catholic or Anglican parent would rather their unborn child to have no head than be a Roundhead, in others, a Puritan would wish for their child have no head than have a priest make the Sign of the Cross on it. Either way, they ended up with a headless baby.
  • There is a fairy tale about a poor couple that rescues an elf and is granted three wishes in return. The wife, being hungry, wishes she had a nice, tasty sausage. Her husband scolds her for wasting a wish on such a mundane thing and blurts out in anger: "I wish that stupid sausage would stick to your nose!" which is, of course, exactly what happens next. In the end, they have to use the third wish to get the sausage off the poor woman's face and have thus wasted all three of them.
    • …At least, they still have got the sausage.
  • There's a story from somewhere in Africa about a tribe that doesn't exist any more, because when seeking a reward from some supernatural being, the men said that the best thing that could happen to them was for their wife to give them a son, and for their cattle to give them female calves. -- So be it, all your children shall be sons and all your calves shall be heifers. -- They rejoiced, until...
  • Prince Ivan, the Witch Baby, and the Little Sister of the Sun Your son does not talk. Wish for any child at all, because things can't be worse, and you get a witch child born with her iron teeth who eats you up.


Film[edit | hide]

  • In the Frank Capra classic It's a Wonderful Life, protagonist George Bailey's falls apart so dramatically that he wishes he was never born. His guardian angel, Clarence, decides to show him exactly how much of a suckfest his home town of Bedford Falls would have become without his influence. This in turn was parodied relentlessly.
  • In the "Fiction" section of Storytelling, white girl Vi wants to fuck her black literature professor Mr. Scott. The actual experience turns out to be traumatic; she realizes she is the latest young, impressionable white girl in a series of sexual conquests, and Mr. Scott has a proclivity for racial epithets that makes the scene memorably disturbing.
  • This is, of course, how Labyrinth starts. Frustrated at her baby half-brother, Sarah carelessly wishes that the villain from her favorite book would take the brat away and is more than a bit shocked when he actually does. Whoopsie.
  • This is the main plot of the Tom Hanks film Big, with the Aesop that "Growing up has its perks but they come gradually".
    • Parodied by Family Guy. Stewie wishes that he was big, the wish-granting machine wishes it could weigh people.
  • Ditto for the Jennifer Garner movie 13 Going on 30, which is the same premise with a girl.
  • 17 Again recycles the plot of the two above with the twist that an adult wants to come back to his youth days and instead is merely given his young body again, with all the trouble that this ensures.
  • The short film "A Case of Spring Fever", as featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode 1012, has an oddly specific example. A man, tired of trying to fix the sofa, wishes he never sees another spring in his life, only for it to be granted by the insanely cackling spirit "Coily, the spring sprite". Hilarity Ensues as his door locks, phone dial and car pedals stop working. Noooooooooo Springs!
    • Parodied in The Simpsons; a 1950s educational film has a young man foolishly wish that zinc didn't exist (?!), which proceeded to ruin his life because he couldn't (a) drive his zinc-less car to pick up his girlfriend for a date; (b) call his girlfriend to postpone their date with his zinc-less telephone; and (c) shoot himself in despair (as even the hammer in the gun was made of zinc). The young man is quick to regret his desire for a world without zinc ("Zinc! Come back!"); fortunately, it turns out to be All Just a Dream.
    • Mystery Science Theater 3000 had parodied Coily before, in episode 317 (the famous "waffle episode"), with Willy the Waffle, the Wonderful Whimsical Wisecracking Waffle granting Tom's wish for a world without waffles ("Noooooooooo Waffles! * coil spring noise* "). Willy appeared again in 423 to show Tom a world without advertising ("It was all I had, I had to work fast"). After Willy's spiel, Joel and Tom agree that they prefer the world without advertising.
      • They also parodied Coily in the host segments for the episode in which they watched "A Case of Spring Fever". While discussing the skit, Tom wishes never to see Mike again, which prompts a visit by Mikey the Mike Sprite, who makes Nelson disappear. The Bots aren't too bothered, but Mikey eventually badgers them into at least pretending they've learned their lesson, and brings Mike back. Then Crow says he doesn't want to see Mike's socks again; cue Mikesocksy...
  • Bedazzled has this as its main premise.
  • In the Disney Movie Blank Check the protagonist feels left out because he has no money while everyone else in his family does. While blowing out the candles on his birthday cake, he wishes to be rich. Shortly afterwards , his bike gets run over and he is handed a blank check to cover for his bike, he cashes it for 1 million dollars. After buying a house and loads of fancy toys, he realizes that he is just as friendless as before.
    • The final scene has him considering his wish for his next birthday while admiring the attractive female FBI agent that saved him from the villains.
  • Disney's Aladdin uses this idea. In the first film, all that Aladdin wants is for Princess Jasmine to love him, a type of wish the Genie explicitly cannot grant, and ironically, Jasmine already loves him. So he wishes to become a prince, so that he can woo Jasmine - a wish which makes her like him less because he's just another prince. She doesn't start loving him until he acts like normal - funny, charming and adventurous.
  • The Disney Channel movie 16 Wishes combined this trope with An Aesop about appreciating what you have.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the Big Bad asks the movie's extradimensional aliens for all of their knowledge. She gets it all of course, so much in fact that she literally explodes from the information overload.
    • Played for laughs in the second movie Temple of Doom, where Indy, after having stopped a mining cart with his foot and resulting in his boot smoking, cries out "Water! Water!". Mere seconds later...
  • The Russian film Adventures of Petrov and Vasechkin (two children) has a subplot about wishes. For example, Vasechkin states how great it would be to be invisible, only to collide with other person and shout: "What are you thinking, didn't you see me?!" When they really get wishes granted, things get even uglier.
  • The Incredible Mr. Limpet.
    • Ultimately averted because it turns out he really is happier as a fish.
  • In Leatherheads, "Dodge" Connelly (played by George Clooney) wants professional football to become a legitimate, respectable way to make a living. A variant in that there's nothing supernatural to grant his wish. The government steps in and appoints a Commissioner to clean things up. Once this happens, he discovers there's no longer a place for him or his style of play.
  • In Bolt, the director pulls one of these when Mindy-from-the-Network asks for a less than happy ending. He ends it abruptly and says to Mindy "How does your audience feel about... cliffhangers? You wanted unhappy 18-35 year olds, I'll give you unhappy 18-35 year olds. Small example but it works."
  • A cover for the film version of Coraline features the trope name, word for word, written on a wall.
    • Interestingly, the film's wish is different from the book's: in the former Coraline wishes for caring parents, in the latter, for an adventure. Nevertheless, both wishes backfire badly.
  • A Day Without a Mexican. The film starts with several Californians expressing their contempt and animosity for Mexican immigrants (mostly the illegal ones), then suddenly all Mexican immigrants start vanishing all over the state forcing them to see how much they relied on them and then making them long for their return.
  • In the Olsen twins movie Double, Double, Toil and Trouble, Agatha wishes that she and her identical twin Sophia were "completely different". Agatha grows up to be an evil witch who relatives avoid unless they need money, and Sophia grows up to be a kindly woman who everyone loves.
  • In Freaky Friday, the heroine and her mother both wish to be each other "just for one day". Since they make the wish at the same time, this being Hollywood, it happens. Hilarity Ensues.
    • The same plot was given a gender flip in Viceversa
  • In The Thief of Bagdad, Abu accidentally wishes Ahmad away this way.
  • In Bernard And The Genie, the Genie warns Bernard "Use the words 'I wish' with the caution you used to reserve for the words 'Please castrate me.'"
  • In Star Trek III the Search For Spock, the Lieutenant working with Uhura at the Transporter station asks for "a little excitement"...and he gets it, but not what he had in mind.
  • It's somewhat overshadowed by the main "foiling the burglars" plot, but Home Alone plays this straight with the protagonist wishing his family didn't exist, and ultimately coming to regret their being gone.

"I made my family disappear!"

  • The horror movie Open Graves (as reviewed by Phelous) ends with the character being granted a wish, and using it to rewind time to before the tragic events of the film occurred. Since he neglected to mention that he wanted some kind of foreknowledge of what was going to happen it proceeded to just happen over again. To make it worse, the witch who created the cursed game that set this in motion showed up to tell him his wish was stupid and maybe he should make a different one, and he just insisted that was what he wanted.
  • Basically the plot of the Grade-Z horror film Hobgoblins.
  • The Banker. The titular character invokes this trope on a fellow who is blackmailing him. Let's just say that things don't go too well for the blackmailer after that.
  • The Princess and the Frog: Dr. Facilier promises to "make all [Lawrence and Naveen's] wildest dreams come true." To quote Discworld, remember some of your dreams?
  • In Dead Friend (aka The Ghost) Su-in, completely by accident, got what she wished for - She becomes Ji-won. Unfortunately for her, there were some nasty consequences.
  • Lenina Huxley, a huge fan of the pre-Utopia history, wished for some real action in Demolition Man and then Simon Phoenix broke out of the cryo prison.
  • In the Looney Tunes compilation movie Daffy Duck's Fantastic Island, Daffy, Speedy Gonzales, Yosemite Sam and the Tasmanian Devil are stuck on an deserted island with only three wishes after the map that works a wishing well is destroyed. Speedy and Daffy play this trope straight when Speedy wishes for a burrito and Daffy, annoyed over the wish, wishes it was on his nose. When Daffy suggests using the last wish to get it off, he finds out that Sam and Taz has averted the trope by wishing for a new ship, leaving the other two behind.
  • The Movie of Wizards of Waverly Place had it too. Alex yells at her mother when the latter grounds the former, ultimately wishing that her parents never met. At all. And because she is holding the wand, the wish that Alex unintentionally makes comes true. Ironic that she'd wish that on vacation in the one place where her parents first met.
  • In Mystery Science Theater 3000, Mike challenges Pearl Forrester to a game of chance and ends up winning. He asks for Hamlet. Boy, does she give him Hamelet!
  • Essentially the plot of most Hellraiser films, especially the first two and the ninth where the cenobites are simply Sense Freaks. Hedonists who open the box looking for sensation the normal, dull, unfulfilling world can't provide learn this lesson very quickly, but far too late. In Deader, Pinhead delivers the trope name to Winter for trying to cheat death but messing up and delivering himself right into Pinhead's waiting chains.
  • Interstate 60: "Now one young couple wished to be married and live happily ever after. So I blew up their car at the church on the way to the honeymoon. Another guy he wanted great, perfect sex every day with his choice of gorgeous women - no pregnancies. So everyday he gets a Fed Ex delivery of a skin magazine and a box of tissues."
  • In In Time. Sylvia was bored of her sterile, rich life and wanted a life of adventure. Then, Will kidnaps her and she nearly dies a few times. After getting over the initial shock, she falls for him and joins him in his quest.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • In the medieval Chivalric Romance of Robert the Devil and all its variants, the parents wish for a child—whether from God or the Devil. The son is therefore born possessed by evil. (Fortunately for him, in due time, he repents and does penitence for his evil. This results in either marrying the princess or becoming a saint.)
  • In Hans Christian Andersen's The Galoshes of Fortune, the titular shoes grant the wishes of whoever is wearing them. This usually ends badly, as the characters are unaware of their power. For example, the Councilor of Justice held the view that in the time of King Hans, around 1500, everything was better; when the galoshes transport him to that age, he finds out that it was actually much worse.
  • The Edgar Allan Poe story Never Bet the Devil Your Head is an odd case of this. A man tells a story of a friend who says he'd "bet the devil his head" that he could perform a particular trick; out of nowhere, a mystery man shows up eager to take him up on his bet, and sure enough, he manages to decapitate himself and the man runs off with his prize.
  • In Wedding Shirts, a ballad by Karel Jaromír Erben, a woman makes the following wish in a prayer: "O Mary, full of power / Oh, help me at this hour / Bring my beloved home / Lord knows where he does roam / Bring him, I reck not how / Or finish my life now." You know what followed ... Yes, her beloved returned to her from the grave, almost leading to the second part of the wish coming true as well.
  • Both subverted and not in the short story "The Wish Ring". A farmer is kind to an old woman, and gets a wish ring in return. He shows it to a jeweler to see how much it's worth, and the jeweler steals it from him and replaces it with an identical copy. The jeweler then wishes for a million gold pieces, which promptly begin raining from the sky and crush him to death. In the meantime, the farmer goes home still thinking he has the real ring. Every time his wife suggests something they could wish for, he says no, they can work for that and earn it instead. Eventually they become happy and rich because of their hard work, and die with the wish still unasked.
  • In The Picture of Dorian Gray, the titular character makes a Deal with the Devil to stay young and good looking forever; instead, a life sized portrait of him will age in his place. While he enjoys his life of consequence-free debauchery at first, eventually the picture begins to serve as his conscience, reminding him of things to prefer to forget. Comes complete with a heavy dose of symbolism, as after he commits murder blood appears on his portrait's hands. Eventually, trying to eliminate the portrait and the evidence of his sins causes his own death.
  • Forms most of the plot of the Edwardian children's novel Five Children and It by E. Nesbit—the "it" of the title is a cantankerous sand-fairy, whose granted wishes always backfire on the children.
  • W.W. Jacobs' classic short story The Monkey's Paw concerns a married couple who receive the title item as a gift from a friend who served in the British Army in India. The paw grants its owner Three Wishes, and the husband uses the first of these to wish for 200 pounds; the couple subsequently learns that their grown son was killed after falling into the machinery at the factory where he worked, and they are offered £200 as compensation from the employers. The wife then begs the husband to wish for the son to be brought back to life; after he does so (with great reluctance), they hear a steady knocking on their door. As the overjoyed wife runs to unlock and open the door, the husband realizes to his horror that the son will have come back in his mutilated state, and quickly uses the third wish; when the wife finally gets the door open, there's nobody there, implying that the third wish was for the son to be returned to the grave.
    • An interesting alternate interpretation is that the second wish actually came true exactly as the mother wanted and the son was back, completely unharmed. The curse's effect in this case was not to give the parents a mutilated zombie of a son, but to make the father so paranoid that after finally getting what he wanted he immediately wished it away because he was sure it would be bad. Not only did the father unwittingly destroy the one thing he wanted, he also wasted the last wish which could have been used to wish the paw away.
      • That alternate interpretation might work for some of the variations on this story that have appeared over the years, but the original is pretty clear that the paw twists every wish into its darkest meaning. If anything, one should wonder what the consequences of the THIRD wish might be...
      • I think some would consider the paranoia that the wish gives the father, which denies him a chance to see his son again, to be worse than the son Coming Back Wrong. They both fit the Paw's stated ability, it just depends on which you consider worse.
    • The short youtube film The Monkey's Paw is based off of the same story, except it's the son and the mother who find the paw and the son wishes his zombie father away. (The wish has no audio, so the wording of his wish is unknown.)
  • Gelsomino, whose voice could shatter even stone, wished to come into a land "where everything is inversed, and people don't worry about my voice". He then arrives into Land of Liars, where everybody is obliged by law to lie, naming night day, black white etc. Naturally, they don't care about his voice - they have other problems!
  • Most of the works of Clive Barker have this theme; want to know where the mysterious girls are coming from? you become one yourself. Want to gain notoriety for finding out that an Urban Legend is true? You will... as his next victim.
  • Frodo always wished for adventures when he was small... didn't work out well, either.
    • Also part of the backstory of the Nazgul: they were once mighty, arrogant Kings of Men who desired power and long life. So Sauron gave them magic rings. Now they are immortal...undead slaves to Sauron's will.
  • In The Land, drinking the Blood of the Earth gives the power to command absolutely anything to happen, but limited human minds simply cannot know all consequences of a sudden change to reality. So it's usually safest not to use it.
  • In Ursula K. Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven, the protagonist is repeatedly asked to dream of a solution to a pressing problem, and the solution turns out to be worse than the original. For example, asked to make sure that there is enough food for everyone, he dreams of a plague that has killed most people in the past, and the survivors have enough to eat. Then, when there are alien invaders on the Moon, he is asked to dream that the aliens are no longer on the moon, so he makes them leave the Moon for...Earth.
  • The entire premise of John Brunner's novel The Traveller in Black is that of a man who grants wishes in ways that are never to the wishers' liking, the ultimate goal of which is to replace Chaos with Order.
    • Not quite true; those who are selfish get their comeuppance, but the few who are unselfish (e.g. someone who wishes the Traveller success in his present quest, a little girl who wants to make the fire burn brighter so the family hut will be warm) are rewarded.
    • Moreover, the Traveller often simply accelerates a comeuppance that the character was bound to suffer anyway, as when he splashes Lorega with the transformative water she'd intended to jump into already.
  • There's a short story about a world where wishes came true automatically. In this setting, people lived idyllic lives as their every needs were met. Unfortunately, there was a fool, whose wishes were so poorly conceived that they always backfired on him. After making a number of increasingly short-sighted wishes, he finally thought of one that would put an end to this chain of misfortune: he wished "that wishes would no longer automatically come true." The next and final line of the story reads, "Things were tough all over."
    • Pity nobody ever told him to wish he weren't a fool.
  • Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones has Charles use his new-found powers to torment Simon, the classroom bully. How does he do this? With a literal game of Simon says; anything Simon says comes true. After a few mishaps (With Simon saying everything from 'You girls stink' to 'I'm not clever at all!'), Chrestomanci comes in, gets Simon to shut up and tells Charles how horribly everything could've gone if Simon had said something like 'Two plus two equals three' or the like.
    • The fact that Simon was actually using this for his gain pretty well in the beginning (by turning things to gold) only makes this double-edged for Charles to watch what he wishes for too.
  • Bill Brittain's The Wish Giver is all about this. Three children in a small American town (along with the Narrator, a man from the general store who answers to the nickname "Stew Meat") get cards that supposedly grant wishes from a mysterious vendor at the county fair, and the three stories in the book deal with the consequences of the kids' ill-thought-out wishes: A sharp-tongued tomboy named Polly wishes people would start being glad to see her, and much to the amusement of her peers she starts to croak like a bullfrog whenever she starts insulting people; a sentimental girl named Rowena wishes the handsome young traveling salesman she has a crush on would "put down roots in Coven Tree and never leave", and he starts turning into a tree; a farm boy named Adam wishes his family's farm had more than enough water, and it ends up flooded. In the epilogue, the trio have learned their lessons, and beg Stew Meat to undo their wishes with his own wish card.
  • Non-supernatural example: In Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, the character of Serena Joy is a former conservative televangelist who preached that women belonged in the home and helped to support the overthrow of the United States by the theocratic Republic of Gilead; by the time of the novel, she has been stripped of her public role, reduced to the role of subjugated housewife, and forced to be present while another woman - the Handmaid of the title - has sex with her husband every month. As Atwood wryly notes, "How furious she must be, now that she's been taken at her word."
    • Along the same lines, Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here details the takeover of the U.S. government by a fascist regime led by a demagogue named Buzz Windrip. Many characters who initially supported Windrip's regime wind up becoming imprisoned or executed by it.
  • In C. J. Cherryh's Russian trilogy (Rusalka, Chernevog, and Yvgenie), wizards work magic by wanting something. Since the form of the wish takes the easiest path, a wish, for example, for the five-year-old wizard's father to not hit him again could — and did — result in the house burning down and both his parents dying in the fire. Every wish is fraught with the potential for disaster, and not wanting things is like not thinking of elephants, so wizards, by and large, end up insane hermits.
  • A Goosebumps book with this very title has this as its premise, with the term Reset Button loosely applied.
  • It doesn't quite come true, but there is a scene in A Song of Ice and Fire where Arya (disguised as a servant-girl) is talking to an annoying Frey squire who keeps jabbering about how he's going to marry a princess. At some point Arya just snaps at him, yelling "I wish your princess was dead!" not knowing she just wished her own demise. Averted in some ways in that she's still alive, although whether or not she's still Arya Stark is questionable.
    • And also when at the beginning of "A Game of Thrones" Catelyn prayed to the Seven Gods that they let Bran stay in Winterfell. He ended up falling from a tower and not being able to walk ever again.
    • And at one point, Jeyne Poole remarks about how when she was little, she often dreamed how it would be like to be a Stark. Now she does know for sure - and this involves massive Break the Cutie.
  • A principal point in the novel Coraline by Neil Gaiman—even used as a tagline in the film. Coraline wants her life to be more interesting, exciting, and engaging... she gets it, but not the way she wants.
  • One of the characters in "Singularity Sky" by Charles Stross receives three wishes. His first wish is to be young again; he becomes eight years old. Not quite what he had in mind, but as certain people sought to kill him, he was not going to complain. His second wish is for some "real friends"; he gets some talking animals. His third wish is for adventure. Bad idea.
  • A running theme in the Tiffany Aching series (the young adult Discworld books):
    • In The Wee Free Men, Tiffany's baby brother is stolen by the Queen of the Fairies, who will give him whatever he wants - and since he wants sweets, he'll get sweets, and nothing else, for the rest of his life.
    • In the third book in the series, Wintersmith, Tiffany doesn't want the titular Anthropomorphic Personification of Winter to continue making her name in frost, or icebergs that look like her, but feels sorry and lets him make all the snowflake portraits of her that he wishes. As the story opens with a Flash Forward of the entire Chalk covered in tens of feet of snow, you can see where this is going.
    • In A Hat Full of Sky, this trope is explicitly dissected, with Granny Weatherwax pointing out that if someone in a story gets three wishes, the third will always be "undo the harm caused by the first two wishes".
      • And in the beginning of the book it's noted that had Tiffany said aloud that she'd like to marry a prince, the Feegles might well show up at her door with an (unconscious) prince and a (tied up) priest ready to perform the ceremony.
    • There's an example in the main series as well: in Eric, the titular character demands three wishes from Rincewind the wizzard [sic]: mastery over the kingdoms of the world; to meet the most beautiful woman who ever lived; and to live forever. Oh, and a chest of gold. The first wish (granted by Vassenego through Rincewind) sends them in orbit above the Disc, and then to one of Eric's new dominions for tribute (the Tezuman empire, the inhabitants of which want to sacrifice them for being a bad landlord, metaphorically speaking). The second wish takes them to the Tsortean Wars, where they meet Elenor of Tsort (an Expy of Helen of Troy), the most beautiful woman who ever lived- ten years and seven children too late. As for the third wish, well, if you want to live for ever, you have to go back to the start of "ever", right?
  • Common in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, especially when fairies are involved. The Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair even invokes this, as one of his plans for defeating Jonathan Strange is to appear to him and offer him whatever he wants, on the basis that it's bound to cause him trouble. That plan rather backfired when Strange doesn't ask for infinite gold, the most beautiful woman in the world or something distracting and troublesome like that, but instead asks for various lost pieces of information about magic The Gentleman doesn't want him to know, leaving him flustered and trying to convince him to pick something else.
  • Serwe's backstory in Second Apocalypse has a lot to do with this trope. Her prayers to gods come true several times but not in a way she wants.
  • Fairy Haven and the Quest for the Wand by Gail Carson Levine. The Neverland fairies get a wand to repay a mermaid, but, unaware that all wands have a mind of their own, accidentally pick one of the meanest wands.
  • In Death Star, Imperial gunner Tenn Graneet, after Alderaan, remembers his grandfather's saying about being careful what you wish for.

Now he understood exactly what that meant. He had wanted to fire the big gun, and he had gotten to do just that. The only man in the galaxy who had shot it for real, at real targets, and look what it had brought him: misery beyond his ugliest dreams.

  • Stationery Voyagers plays with this quite a bit.
    • Pextel wanted to be an astronaut. He became a robot astronaut, but had to fight evil against his job description. He also wanted to have an intelligent discussion with his father. And Huli dies shortly thereafter. He wanted his mother to believe in him. Too bad! She doesn't trust Mechies.
    • Rhodney wanted to live a life that didn't feel wasted. He ends up in a relationship that feels like a Shaggy Dog Story anyway.
    • Marlack wanted to settle a score with the Yehtzig pirate who raped his sister. He nearly gets himself killed trying.
    • Pinkella wanted her family to come to their senses and start behaving themselves again. They died defying her wishes, to no benefit of theirs.
    • Neone wanted to save her father from Pentacko. Ha ha ha ha ha!!!...
    • Consto wanted a shot at becoming a god. Too bad those Definition Essentials got in the way...all he can hope for is to become Preamble...who in the end, never really does completely break free from his servitude to Astrabolo.
  • In Franny Billingsley's Well Wished this trope is the main basis of the plot. The antagonist sets up the protagonist to fall for this trap. She tricks the protagonist into a making wish that she knows will exchange her crippled body for the protagonist's healthy one.
  • In Melissa Marr's Ink Exchange Leslie wishes for 'no more fear and pain' when she gets her tattoo...she ends up being used as a conduit by some very dark faeries with a Horror Hunger for negative emotions, unable to feel anything for more than a few seconds and barely lucid.
  • Mat from The Wheel of Time books is granted three wishes, but doesn't realise it and goes on a rant. Luckily, he manages to get some useful stuff from it.
  • In CS Lewis's The Voyage of the Dawn Treader one of the seven lords is stranded on an island where all of your dreams come true. The lord and his sailors come to a frightening realization: daydreams don't count, but nightmares do.
    • Also, in The Magician's Nephew, the fruit that Digory picks for Aslan grants wishes. But as the writing on the garden wall warns...

Come in through the gold gates or not at all.
Take of my fruit for others or forbear.
For those who steal or those who climb the wall
Shall find their heart's desire and find despair.

  • In Lord Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter, the commoners want a magical lord. This means the lord has to send his son after the title character for a bride and causes all the subsequent problems.
  • In The Emperor's Winding Sheet by Jill Paton Walsh, the last Emperor of Constantinople said that in his youth he plotted and schemed to become Emperor, and God punished him-by making him Emperor.
  • In Edward Everett Hale's short story "The Man Without a Country", Philip Nolan, as a young man enamored with Aaron Burr, cries out at his court-martial, "Damn the United States! I wish I may never hear of the United States again!" The court grants him his wish by sentencing him to forever live on ships sailing away from the United States and be forbidden from ever hearing or reading anything about the United States ever again. He comes to really and truly regret his wish, and makes sure to tell the narrator not to make the same mistake he did.
  • At the end of L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero In Hell, Miranda reflects on how she had wished to have a common enemy for her family to unite against. She got one. (It's the second in a trilogy.)
  • Elfsong by Elaine Cunningham includes a stanza from Danilo Thann which says this in the chorus. It's a Bawdy Song. "Your wish bespoke how long it WAS, and not how long 'twould LAST!". And yes, it's about a knight's lance.
  • One implication of a Cautionary Tale "A tomboy who became a real boy". A girl wants to do boyish things, and now she has to do boyish things, since she just became a boy.
  • A short story The Dumpster. Sick of your asocial family?, The dumpster will replace it with copies that behave perfectly, but: 1) They will be creepy in their own way, and, most important 2)YOU are now held to the same high standards - slack off and the dumpster will replace you with a perfect copy as well.
  • In Peter Freund's Mysteria series, there is a teenage girl Jessie who, when her father starts a book about the titular land, is excited of it and wants to go there; and then she accidently gets stuck in Mysteria, which is very bad because she requires insulin injections and Mysteria doesn't have this, even with the magic, so she must find a way back before her supply runs out...
  • In Death: Eve is doing paperwork, which she hates, at the beginning of New York To Dallas. She wishes that there was some murderer out there for her to go get. She gets it in the form of Isaac McQueen, a rapist, pedophile, Complete Monster, the first murderer she took down while she was in uniform, and is out for Revenge against Eve. It Gets Worse when Isaac goes to Dallas, the place where she killed her Complete Monster father in self-defense at 8 years old. Paperwork suddenly looks very good right about now.
  • In "The Obsidian Trilogy" and "The Enduring Flame Trilogy" Wildmages can make wishes to the Wildmagic which will grant it for a price which varies depending on the difficulty of the wish. Since the magic will grant you what you ask for, not what you want, Wildmages are warned to think carefully what they really want/desire in order to not waste time and energy paying off a wasted wish, and to minimize the cost of any necessary wishes.
  • Septimus Heap: Lampshaded with Marcia becoming ExtraOrdinary Wizard, since she wished it all the time and it eventually became true... by Alther being shot on the day she became EOW: "Beware what you wish for, lest it come true"
  • Half Upon a Time gives us a great moment right from the beginning. Jack, whose father was Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk, is arguing with his grandfather about Jack's lack of ambition.

Jack: I should be able to just stick out my arms, and have a princess fall right into them!

  • Enchantress From the Stars: Young, overenthusiastic Elana wants to be a part of expedition on Andrecia. She gets her wish when Ilura, another agent, is killed and from then on is on for a very harsh mission from which she now can't back down.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The plot of Beetleborgs centers around three kids who wish to be their favorite comic book superheroes. Consequently, the villans also appear, handing out several Curb Stomp Battles over the course of the series.
    • The first episode of the second season, Metallix, also showed that the wish had a second part - you get the powers, you get the bad guys. No more bad guys? No more powers. Thankfully, new bad guys showed up and the kids were back in action.
  • The Secret World of Alex Mack did this when Alex wished she had 'never been born. She wakes up in a world where her mother got into the chemical truck accident instead of her and was kidnapped by the Plant to be a research subject, her father was fired from his job as a scientist to keep this fact hidden from him and had to take a job unloading cargo trucks, and Annie had to get a job to support them causing her genius level grades to drop.
  • The Cosby Show did this plot, with Theo as the teenager who wanted to be treated like an adult, in its first season, but it has appeared in other series as well.
  • iCarly: The Christmas Episode iChristmas. Carly wishes for Spencer to be normal, and an It's a Wonderful Life style homage ensues, ending, of course, with Carly more appreciative than ever of her life.
  • Standard episode plot for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
    • Ensnaring wronged people with Be Careful What You Wish For is the whole modus operandi of vengeance demons in Buffy. They find somebody who's been wronged, get them to make a wish, and then make the wish come true in a gruesome manner that the wisher never intended.
      • In the episode entitled "The Wish," Cordelia wished that "Buffy Summers had never come to Sunnydale." In the Bizarro World which resulted, Cordelia's friends, Willow and Xander, had been killed and changed into vampires, and Cordelia herself was eventually killed.
        • This is an interesting variation The Deconstruction occurs, but then is subverted at the end, as the Reset Button is pressed so hard that only the wish-granter remembers that the wish even happened. Naturally, Cordelia learns nothing and at the end we see her ranting off a string of increasingly angry wishes about Buffy.
      • In "Older and Far Away," Dawn makes a wish to Halfrek that everybody would spend more time with her. Halfrek makes the dream come true by magically making it impossible for any of the guests at Buffy's party to leave the house.
      • And then promptly picks up the Idiot Ball by entering the house herself, causing the curse to affect her.,
      • In "Selfless," a girl who was cruelly dumped by her boyfriend in front of a dozen or so of his frat mates wishes that they all learn what it feels like to have their hearts ripped out from their chests. So of course Anya summons a huge spider demon that massacres the frat boys by ripping out their hearts from their chests. Willow later finds the girl locked in a closet, in fetal position, saying "I take it back" over and over.
      • Later "Selfless," Anya makes a wish to D'Hoffryn that her vengeance curse be undone. D'Hoffryn answers that undoing the curses requires the death of a vengeance demon. Anya agrees to the price, assuming that she's the one who will die, but then D'Hoffryn summons Anya's friend Halfrek and kills her to undo Anya's curses.
    • In another example from the series, Buffy wishes that her parental figures, Joyce (her actual mother) and Giles (her Watcher) would stop forcing her to be responsible. Later in the episode, entitled "Band Candy," when the adults lose their ability to act responsibly, Buffy sees the disasters that can result when no one does what they are supposed to do, e.g. vampires can steal babies to feed to giant demon snakes if no one cares to watch out for such things. The Reset is rarely complete though - quite a few memories and changes were kept until the end of the show.
    • A more terrifying example occurs in the episode wherein Dawn uses a spell to bring Joyce Summers back to life. It's the classic Monkey's Paw, and the horror is only increased by the fact that except for her feet walking through the cemetery, we never see what Joyce looked like. She had been dead for some time, so...
      • Actually, she might have been 100% fine, just in a state of shock like Buffy later was. Dawn may have re-killed her mother due to fear, when she could have been 100% fine in the end. It's actually quite likely that she would have been fine, as Buffy was dead longer and got better. Nice job breaking it, Dawnie.
      • But considering the look of horror on Buffy's face when she found out what Dawn was going to do, coupled with the relevation that the 'nice old man' is an evil demon, well... Also, Willow and Dawn used different spells. Willow's, undertaken by an extremely powerful witch, was an ancient resurrection ritual that used rare mystical ingredients, featured the god Osiris testing the caster, and was used on someone who died a mystical death. Dawn's, on the other hand, was a sheet of paper handed her by an evil demon that could be performed without apparent effort by a teenager with no magical experience whatsoever on someone who died naturally.
      • Also, in Buffyverse, actual resurrection defies No Ontological Inertia: Buffy was alive after the urn was shattered, so if Joice were truly alive, she wouldn't disappear just because Dawn broke the spell.
      • Not to mention that we actually do see a hint of what Joyce looks like courtesy of an eerie shadow that passes by the front curtains of the house as she is heading for the front door.
      • To be fair to Dawn, she did learn from it, with her constant insistence of reminding everyone about the Monkey's Paw (the fact that if it seems too good to be true, it most likely is) when Buffy starts getting new powers in Season 8. She's absolutely right.
    • Eventually, they knew better than to say they wished for things aloud, given every time they do, something perverts the wish. This is much to the chagrin of Anya, who was trying to get them to wish for something so she could pervert it.
    • Cordelia actually has this happen to her twice—given the opportunity in Angel to wish she had never gotten the visions which were killing her she found herself in a world where Angel was insane, Wesley was missing an arm, and Fred was nowhere to be found.
  • News Radio did a hilarious variation on this where Dave and Lisa put Bill in charge of the station for a day in order to show him how hard their jobs were; the twist was that Bill knew what they were doing from the start (going so far as to ask if they were doing it), but he still played along until they admitted to what they were doing.
  • Subverted in Dads Army, when Captain Mainwaring decides to give persistent grumbler Private Frazer a week's experience in commanding the unit in order to see that it is not as easy as he thinks, only for Frazer to grow increasingly tyrannical and arrogant with power; the catch is that Frazer, although unpopular with the rest of the men, actually proves himself a competent commanding officer whose skills are even recognized and rewarded by a superior officer.
  • In the The X-Files episode "Je Souhaite", Mulder meets a female genie who can grant anyone three wishes... but she is forced to interpret the wishes rather literally, causing her much frustration at the stupidity of people who don't think things through. It is revealed that she used to be a poor peasant woman in the Middle Ages, who found the original genie and squandered her first two wishes asking for a mule and a magic sack of turnips that never ran out. For her third wish, she asked for great power and eternal life: the other genie promptly turned her into a genie, too. The downside: She is now bound to act on the decisions of whichever idiot unrolls her from the carpet she is mystically connected to, and she cannot grant wishes to herself. When Mulder wishes for "peace on Earth", his wish is granted... by making every other person in the world disappear except him. The genie tells him it is impossible for her to change the minds of 6 billion people, but making them disappear was within the rules. Mulder uses his final wish by giving it to her, granting her the ability to make her own decisions and become a mortal woman again.
  • Charmed has several genies corrupting the wishes of the characters that made them.
  • One episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? has a boy running into a genie who grants him several wishes, but they all end up backfiring on him. For example, when he wishes for a brand new car, the boy gets it, but is later arrested when the police discover that the car is stolen. In order to end his torment, the boy finally wishes that he had never met the genie, effectively pressing the Reset Button.
    • Another episode uses a thinly-veiled version of The Monkey's Paw: One of the kids wishes to win a race, so a wild dog shows up and breaks his rival's leg, etc. The wishes escalate until one of them wishes his grandfather (who's dead) were there, at which point Zombie Gramps starts knocking on the door (you don't get to see it, though) until one of the kids wishes they'd never made the wishes.
    • In another one, a girl wishes to live in a fairy tale world, and her wish is granted by the Jackass Genie Sandman.
  • Battlestar Galactica Reimagined: The surviving Colonials tried their best to find Earth for three and a half seasons. They found Earth and it is utterly devastated.
    • A metastory: when original show Battlestar Galactica was cancelled, people rooted for its revival... then for putting it to rest.
    • In the Miniseries novel, Gaius Baltar is depicted as "somebody who spends first half of his life trying to get famous, then spends the rest wearing sunglasses [to be unrecognised]".
  • Babylon 5. One quote:

Londo: ...All right. Fine. You really want to know what I want?! You really want to know the truth?! I want my people to reclaim their rightful place in the galaxy. I want to see the Centauri stretch forth their hand again, and command the stars. I want a rebirth of glory, a renaissance of power. I want to stop running through my life like a man late for an appointment, afraid to... To look back, or to look forward. I want us to be what we used to be. I want... I want it all back, the way that it was! Does that answer your question?
Morden: ...Yes. Yes it does.

    • In an aversion of the trope, the results of exchange did not come due to Time Travel or alternate dimensions, was not subject to a Snap Back, and was generally one of the major causes of the show's Myth Arc.
    • G'Kar's answer to the same question is another example for that matter. He wished for the Centauri to suffer a horrific defeat that meant they could never threaten his planet again. The wish had no real twist to it, but by the time it happened G'Kar had developed beyond such bloodthirsty thinking and so he wasn't in the mood to appreciate it.
    • Inverted when Mr. Morden asks Vir Cotto what he wants, and we get Be Careful Who You Ask What They Wish For:

Vir: I'd like to live just long enough to be there when they cut off your head and stick it on a pike – as a warning to the next ten generations that some favors come with too high a price. I want to look up into your lifeless eyes and wave like this. Can you and your associates arrange that for me, Mr. Morden?

  • Supernatural had an episode with a whole town full of this trope because of a wishing well that worked, involving most notably (and hilariously, in that depressing Supernatural way) a little girl wishing for a giant talking Teddy Bear. Who spent most of the subsequent episode drinking, watching porn and trying to commit suicide. Life as a giant talking Teddy Bear, apparently, makes Marvin the Paranoid Android's life seem full of cheer and meaning. In a possible aversion though, the brothers stop the wishing well before things go catastrophically bad.
  • The Imagin of Kamen Rider Den-O operate on this trope. They seek out people and grant their wishes, but only in letter. In one episode, when a park groundskeeper wished to make his park a safe haven for strays, the Imajin granting the wish responded by attacking any human who set foot in the park and barricading the entrances.
  • The third season finale of Heroes seems to drop a load of this in Sylar's lap if one looks back at his words from season 1:

Gabriel Gray/Sylar: [to Chandra] When I was a kid I used to wish some stranger would come and tell me my family wasn't really my family. Oh, they weren't bad people, they were just...insignificant. And I wanted to be different. Special. I wanted to change. A new name, a new life.

  • Disney Channel had a weekend special where they did this with 3 of their shows:
    • Hannah Montana- Miley wishes she was just Hannah Montana all the time. It is granted and her dad married a Gold Digger, her best friend became Alpha Bitch, and her brother became a hobo.
    • Cory in The House - Corey Baxter wishes that he was president of the U.S.A. After it's granted, Corey uses his authority to get rich, and slacks off on his presidential duties. This leads to being completely unprepared for an alien invasion, and a literal Reset Button is pressed at the end.
    • The Suite Life of Zack and Cody- Zack and Cody wish that they were superheroes. After having to defeat now-supervillian Mr. Moseby, the twins learn they'll have to fight evil 24/7 and give up all their free time. This prompts them to try and fix things by running fast enough to travel through time, to before they made the wish.
      • Though not an actual wish, in "The Suite Smell of Excess", Zack and Cody get a chance to go to an alternate world where everything is reversed and they can play around as much as they like and do whatever they want when they want. However after a few days of excess, they realize that the "preferred" alternate universe Tipton is NOT the perfect place they thought it would be.
  • A 1965 episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour features an adaptation of the Monkey's Paw story.
  • As does an episode of Tales from the Crypt, "Last Respects", which features three sisters. After one sister wishes for a million pounds, another sister dies in a car crash with the third sister (who survives). Guess what the insurance payoff was? When she wishes that the sister hadn't died in the accident, she gets a call from the morgue, and finds out that she was murdered before the accident. When the third sister admits to the murder and comes after her, she deliberately invokes the "Comes back as a Zombie" part to let her slain sister avenge herself.
  • Many The Twilight Zone episodes used this trope. One notable one being "Time Enough at Last" starring Burgess Meredith. He wanted to be left alone so he could read and wound up the lone survivor of a nuclear war...with broken glasses.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus used this in a sketch parodying a fairy tale; a witch invokes a curse upon the attendants of a wedding, turning everyone present into chickens. After a brief second, her eyes widen and she adds "EXCEPT ME!" It's too late, though.

Witch Chicken: Oh, bugger.

  • Perhaps unsurprisingly, Fantasy Island employed this trope quite often.
  • The Tales from the Darkside episode The Milkman Cometh featured a milkman that granted wishes that his customers wrote down and left in their discarded milk bottles. One guy gets addicted to having his wishes granted, and the family soon becomes rich, but his Genre Savvy son begs him to stop before they get screwed over. He refuses, and wishes that they had a second child, only for the milkman to grant it by breaking into the house and raping his wife.
  • Doctor Who had the Family of Blood, who wanted immortality so badly that they hunted the Doctor for months, then on finding him proceeded to decimate a village in order to draw him out of hiding. When he does, there's hell to pay.

Brother: We wanted to live forever, so the Doctor made sure that we did.

  • The genie from the episode "Fruit of a Poisoned Tree" in Once Upon a Time says that he has granted 1001 wishes and 1001 times seen things end badly. We see three wishes granted during the episode, the King's wish for the genie's freedom, which results in the genie falling in love with the Queen and murdering the King, the second wish was for the genie to have the third allowing the genie's own wish to be able to stay with his true love forever and always be able to gaze on her face, resulting in him turning into the Queen's Magic Mirror, and they would seem to confirm the genie's statement.
  • On one occasion in How I Met Your Mother, Ted was angry at Barney, who offered Ted one free hit anywhere but the face. He didn't hit him in the face.
  • One Episode of The Adventures of Shirley Holmes has a teenage girl who was constaltnly harassing the Child Star boy for some unknown series, with the intent to get him out of the show, so that she could the star instead. The boy actually did want to quit, but the Corrupt Corporate Executive wouldn't let him. Shirley exposes the executive and helps the boy to nullify his contract, but didn't find any evidence against the girl. The narration then states: "But she did got what she deserved: her own studio contract, with lots of fine print..." Cue the sight of the girl, forced to do a "take 12" of some stupid episode, exhausted, angry, and clearly miserable after just a few days - and earlier it was established that the contracts with this studio have a minimum term of two years. For the girl, those years will be very long.

Music[edit | hide]

  • The titular character of Marilyn Manson's concept album Antichrist Superstar rises to become the Physical God he always dreamed of being, but crosses the Despair Event Horizon in the process and destroys the earth in a nihilistic rage. The last words of the album are actually "when all of your wishes are granted, many of your dreams will be destroyed" - repeated over and over amidst a wall of static.
  • The titular King in Metallica's "King Nothing" did get the title he worked for, but alienated his would-be subjects in the process, leaving him alone to attend to a crumbling kingdom.
  • The Talking Heads song, "Burning Down The House" opens up with "Watch out, you might get what you're after"
  • Kinda done in "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Albuquerque":

"I see this guy Marty tryin' to carry a big ol' sofa up the stairs all by himself. So I, I say to him, I say 'Hey, you want me to help you with that?' And Marty, he just rolls his eyes and goes 'Noooo, I want you to cut off my arms and legs with a chainsaw!' So I did."

  • Eurydice in Hadestown wants to "lie down forever," so she's taken to the underworld.
  • The narrator of Rush's song "Xanadu" wishes he could visit the stately pleasure dome of Coleridge's poem and gain immortality by drinking honeydew and the milk of paradise. He succeeds, but finds himself eternally trapped within the dome.
  • Mentioned in the Art of Dying song "Completely;" the lead-in line to the chorus in (both versions) is "watch what you wish for, you know you just might get it..." In the original, there is a line in the chorus about how "everything you want/ain't always what you need..."
  • The song "Black Fox" by Heather Dale. Whilst out on a unsucessesful fox-hunt, the master huntsman proclaims "If only the Devil himself come by, we'd run him such a race!". A little black fox then appears, and the huntsmen chase it until it crosses a river... and promtply turns into the devil, whereupon the huntsmen have a collective Oh Crap moment and flee, pursued by the (now-laughing) little black fox.


Religion and Myth[edit | hide]

  • In The Bible, even God could be harsh in granting wishes when the wishers were being too whiny. In response to the Israelites complaining about all manna and no meat, he gave them meat for a month "until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you" (KJV).
    • Jephthah in the book of Judges gets a lesson in Be Careful What You Pray For, when he prays to God, "If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering." (Judges 11:30,31) God gives him the victory, but when Jephthah comes home, the first thing that greets him at the doors was his only daughter! The jury is undecided over how Jephthah actually goes through with the sacrifice, whether he does make her a burnt offering or, as some believe, keeps her a virgin for the rest of her life, which in that culture at the time was considered a sacrifice.
    • Of course, though, the Bible being what it is, these could just God and/or the author of those specific books/passages teaching humanity the important lesson to "choose your words carefully".
  • One particular instance is Draupadi, the Pandavas's wife, in the Mahabharata yearning for a husband in her previous life. She wanted her husband to be as strong as Vayu, as talented as Indra, as moral as Dharma and as beautiful as the Ashwini twins. She forgot to specify that she wanted one husband. As a result, in her next incarnation, she married five men and was the wife of five husbands simultaneously.


Theatre[edit | hide]

  • In Igor Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, the hapless (and gormless) Tom Rakewell's troubles start with him wishing he had money, upon which a mysterious manservant appears to inform him that an estranged uncle has left him a fortune. Once Tom realises that urban decadence and high living are no substitute for the love he left behind in the countryside, he wishes he were happy, and his servant convinces him to marry a genderbending circus artist. Once the marriage falls apart, he dreams of a machine that turns stone into bread and, upon waking, wishes it were true; the servant wheels in a prototype. The machine is a complete fraud, and Tom is bankrupted. You'd think the fact that the servant gives his name as "Nick Shadow" would have rung a bell at some point...
  • Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods: Everyone wishes for something at one point - in fact, the beginning prologue song comprised of mostly the lyrics "I wish, more than anything, more than life" - but it typically backfires. Cinderella wishes to go to the Festival but doesn't count on a prince chasing her around the woods. The Baker and his wife wish to have a child but don't intend to also run around the woods trying to get stuff for the Witch.
  • In Shakespeare's Henry V, Henry asks three traitorous nobles what he should do with a drunk who called him a nasty name. The nobles, unaware that Henry knows of their treachery, tell him emphatically that he should show no mercy for this (minor) infraction and punish the drunk harshly. In doing so, they leave themselves no room to ask for mercy when Henry reveals his knowledge of their betrayal. He has them executed.
  • Shows up in I Married an Angel.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Notorious warning given by almost all GM's in fantasy roleplaying when a player acquires a magical artifact or spell that grants them wishes. Often leads to almost comic wordings of wishes to avoid the GM taking it too literally and punishing the player. Apparently the fact that wish is 9th level (requiring the character to be at 17th level with genius-level Intelligence to be able to cast it at all) and ages the caster five years (In pre-3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons) isn't bad enough.
    • This reminds me, when you get a wish spell, NEVER sing the Oscar Meyer Weiner song.
    • Theoretically, you could cast a 2nd wish spell to de-age your caster 10 years, thus negating the aging effects of both your 1st wish spell and the wish you used to de-age yourself. Or, just use the wish phrasing found in the "Be careful what you wish for" section here.
  • Magic the Gathering has a cycle of Wish cards, the flavour text of each of which is a variant on the following: "He wished for X, but not for the Y to [Verb that means use effectively] it."
  • Warhammer 40,000: a piece of background fluff mentions the Dark Angels besieging the fortress of a rogue planetary Governor who'd turned to Chaos. The governor asks his daemon of Tzeentch for a way to break the siege, the daemon hands him something and disappears. The governor just has time to wonder what it is before he is surrounded by the hulking blue force fields heralding teleporting Space Marine Terminators- the daemon gave him a teleport homing beacon allowing the Dark Angels to kill the governor, effectively ending the siege.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • This is one of the main subtexts of Metal Gear Solid 2, as the game shows exactly what the players who wanted to be Solid Snake would have to go through with Raiden.
  • Calypso, from the Twisted Metal games. He grants the winners of his competitions their wishes in a manner that either kills them or results in an outcome different from what they had envisioned. A case of the former in Twisted Metal: Head-On is when the driver of Spectre, Chuckie Floop, wished for a lot of money and was then buried alive underneath a massive pile of cash. In Warthog's ending for Twisted Metal 2, Calypso delivers a sickeningly brilliant example of the latter when he grants the 105-year-old Captain Rogers' wish for a youthful body ... sans the head to match.
    • Occasionally, Calypso will grant a wish straight, only for the winner to experience the inevitable or natural consequences of their wish.
      • And for all his trickery, Calypso has indeed suffered a reversal of this (Sweet Tooth in Twisted Metal: Black).
    • Carl Roberts (Outlaw) to his sister Jamie: "I wish you'd shut up!" Jamie's mouth grows shut.
  • Most of the "bad" endings in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl consist of this, with the player character succumbing to the temptation to make a wish to the mysterious artifact in the middle of Chernobyl (the wish chosen depending on certain conditions). All of these wishes end up backfiring on him:
    • "I want the Zone to disappear": the PC goes blind
    • "Mankind is corrupt, it must be controlled[1]": Images of war and death start flashing followed by the PC standing in a black void
    • "I want to be rich": the PC sees gold coins falling from the sky...which turn out to be an hallucination: the "coins" are actually bolts falling from the ceiling which collapses on the PC, killing him.
    • "I want to rule the world": the PC is absorbed into the C-Consciousness.
    • "I want to be immortal": the PC is turned into a metal statue.
  • In Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal you get the wish spell. It's a hell of a lot more powerful than the limited wish spell and also level 9. It's also extremely tricky to cast, as the Djinn that you summon is a grumpy so-and-so who's out to get you and as such you will need a very good Wisdom score to be able to handle him okay. A WIS of 18 is nigh-on essential to get the most out of this spell, and anything under 9 WIS is catastrophic. When you cast the spell, time is stopped and the casting character negotiates with the Djinn for some hours - finally he presents you with "a list of 5 ways I can interpret your wish - choose one".
    • The conditions on wish and limited wish even at very high Wisdom can make them a prime example of a Useless Useful Spell. For example, asking to be protected against the undead will make it summon a horde of vampires to attack you so that there are some undead to be protected against, then not protecting you from them. This isn't Literal Genie twisting of words, it's just... not doing the thing you asked in any way.
      • Only because you got the wording of that wish wrong. It was "prepared against undead". And you do need undead to be prepared against. In the wishes where you ask for protection, you get it. Of course, if you ask to be immune to magic, you probably forgot that healing and buffs are magic also... Another example is if you for a horde to overrun your enemies, you never specified what horde and you get a horde of rabbits. It is a combination of stupidly open-ended wishes and a Literal/JerkassGenie
  • A major concept behind the Game of Afterlife by LucasArts. This is even billed as rule #1 of the afterlife. Specifically, it's stated that souls are treated differently after death based on what they believed in while living.
  • Planescape: Torment utilizes a classic and particularly chilling incarnation of the trope. An NPC named Yves Tale-Chaser will trade stories with the Nameless One and his companions. One of them begins with a man who comes to in an alley, remembering nothing. An old woman is in front of him, and she asks, "And your third wish?" He says he doesn't understand, and she explains she had offered him three wishes, and he'd already used two - and the second wish was to undo and forget his first wish. So, for the third, he asks to know who he is. She cackles softly as she prepares to grant his wish, and he asks what's so funny. "That was your first wish." It's heavily implied in another part of the game that this actually occurred between the Nameless One and the Night Hag Ravel Puzzlewell.
  • Anyone who's gotten La-Mulana's Brutal Bonus Level Bragging Rights Reward (without spoiling it for themselves) can tell you this.
  • Eternal Darkness has this happen once. Bored Cambodian temple dancer Ellia finds herself all alone with nothing but what she thinks is an innocuous book of legends to entertain herself, wishes that something exciting would happen to her, and ends up immediately getting locked inside the temple, finding herself entangled and directly involved in the book's "legends," and killed as a result of all this. Now, was that exciting enough for you, Ellia?
    • It's actually worse than just that. She is turned into a zombie-like husk of a person (still alive) who has to wait until a second hero arrives to undo her mistake. For reference, Ellia's chapter takes place in 1150. That second hero who puts her out of her misery? He arrives in 1983.
  • Discussed in detail in Fate Stay Night, but for the most part averted. Except for Archer. I want to save everyone! I know, how about I make a contract with the world? Guardian Spirits gets to save people all the time! Oh wait, they actually kill people en masse indiscriminately to prevent them from killing even more people. Woops. Other than that little mistake, it seems the idea is 'do what you can with your own ability, and accept your own failures if it doesn't work.
  • One of the side stories in Kagetsu Tohya has Shiki living in a world based on Twin Threesome Fantasy fantasy scenario he had. The problem is, he realized such a thing could never happen unless they were in a world all by themselves plus he's currently already trapped inside a Groundhog Day Loop. So the Dream Within a Dream he has just traps him a world where he's living forever inside the mansion grounds with only Kohaku and Hisui, doing whatever he likes with them while slowly going insane.
  • There's a wish-granting Mana (the main character) in Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis. The first wish it ever granted was death, although, in a subversion, that wish was exactly what the person who wished it was asking for.
  • In Jak and Daxter, the Precursors offer to turn Jak into one of them as thanks for his services. All of a sudden Count Veger arrives with a gun demanding that HE be turned into one instead. The Precursor says "Be Careful What You Wish For" and does something to Veger. Shortly afterwards it's revealed that the Energy Being they were talking to was just a hologram and that the Precursors...are ottsels. Cue Karmic Transformation when Veger realizes the implications of this.
    • Later, Daxter, finally in peace with his ottsel appearance, asks for a set of pants. His girlfriend then says that those pants are so cute, she wished she had a pair of them herself. Cue the precursors' "Be Careful What You Wish For" a second time, and the girl getting a pair of pants just like that... and turned into an Ottsel so she could fit into them.
      • Not that she seems to mind all that much.
        • Of course not. Those pants look great!
  • ...killed by an Archon called You get a bad feeling about this.
    • To clarify: In Nethack, it is possible to be granted a wish. A common choice is to wish for a blessed Archon figurine, which when used has an 80% chance of netting you an extremely powerful pet. There is, however a 10% chance that it will instead be generated hostile. Have a Nice Death!
  • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.
  • Persona 2: Innocent Sin puts a spin on this. You don't so much have to be careful what you wish for, as be careful about wishing at all. Having your wildest dreams handed to you without struggle or effort will eventually rob you of your ideal energy, causing you to fade away to nonexistence.
  • This was the case on the production level for Left 4 Dead 2. Valve is notoriously known for their Valve Time due to how long they take to produce games in order to perfect them and/or delaying games after they get close to a release date. People got sick of Valve taking too long to produce anything, so Valve made Left 4 Dead 2 nearly one year after the first game was released in order to prove to people that they CAN release on time and on a fixed schedule. While Left 4 Dead 2 was generally well received, the more dedicated fans complain to this day about random bugs and balance issues with some people stating Valve Time is actually a good thing and Valve should not be rushed.
    • Similarly, corner camping became a huge issue in Left 4 Dead 1; it was a technique used by survivor players where they huddle in a corner or in a closet and mow down all infected that came their way. People complained about the exploit and started to make suggestions to counter corner camping, which Valve implemented for Left 4 Dead 2 with new infected that dealt with survivors that holed up in a spot (Spitter, Charger, and Jockey), allowing common infected to rush in from more places, and included gauntlet crescendos where survivors have to keep moving through a never ending horde and stop the source (such an an alarm). This worked too well since now most survivor players will always rush the maps and hardly stop, making it difficult for zombie players to be able to spawn in time or attack effectively. Naturally, people are complaining about the changes and want even more special infected that has the ability to stop a survivor from running.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the Daedric Prince Clavicus Vile is essentially this trope given corporeal form. The cave in which you find his shrine is populated with vampires that wished for an end to their suffering, which they presumably thought meant a cure for vampirism. He gave them a heavily armed adventurer. Vile sends you after the Rueful Axe, which he granted to a wizard who wished to end his daughter's lycanthropy.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable: The Gears of Destiny: As Levi mentioned with her dying breath, Lord Dearche finally got the nigh-unlimited power that she had always wanted. However, it came at a price she was never willing to pay, namely, the lives of Stern and Levi, her two loyal retainers. Unsurprisingly, her main motivation for the rest of the game is to reverse this so she could get Stern and Levi back.


Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • Also the title (more or less) of this furry cartoon (NSFW), where the wish leads to the heroine being Taken for Granite (or at least metal).
  • In Real Life, a character playing a D&D game gets a ring of three wishes, much to the chagrin of the DM. The character immediately wishes for more gold than he knows what to do with, and his player is instantly crushed by a giant gold boulder. When the previous wish is reversed while still losing the wish, he then wishes for a million gold pieces, and receives gold pieces so small that he "might be able to afford an ale with them". When he finally gets a wish written up by a lawyer in order to avoid any exploitable loopholes, the DM relents and has no choice but to grant the wish. And then the player's character gets eaten by a dragon.
    • Another DM had a player who wished for an infinite gold mine. His wish was granted, and the player's character was instantly teleported into a mine of solid gold, stretching forever in all directions...
  • Death of Insanely Overpowered Fireballs from Irregular Webcomic wished to get his job back after getting demoted. He got his job back, to process all the people who have died when the Irregular Universe was torn apart from Time Paradox.
  • Perry Bible Fellowship here and there. Although the latter is more like "dammit, I wasted my wish."
  • Minus. when you ask to be sent back in time, specify when first.
    • From the very end: "Who do you want brought back?" Think carefully. "Everyone" is a lot of people... and animals...
  • Girl Genius has a variation: Castle Heterodyne seems to delight in creative interpretation of Agatha's orders. Not so much because of malice as much as because it's too Axe Crazy to imagine she might NOT want to kill everyone.
  • This Subnormality strip shows how to have everything you could ever need in life.

So you're one of those genies.

  • Weesh has this as its premise. However, the wish-granter is not malicious (mischievious, perhaps) or literal, but the wish-makers often fail to see the implications of their wishes.
  • In Giselle one demon girl finds out that wishing wells don't like cheapskates.
  • Erfworld puts an interesting spin on this trope after Parson erupts a volcano to destroy the invading army and realizes what exactly he's done.

Parson: "I mean, then... what's the lesson supposed to be here, Wanda? 'Be careful what you wish for?' This isn't what I wished for!"
Wanda: "Hah! You didn't wish for this world, Parson Gotti. It wished for you.

    • Also, the "Ultimate Warlord" spell. Why did Stanley get Parson? Well, this is how he described what he wanted:

"I want him to be obsessed with war! Somebody who plans wars and kills his enemies for fun![2] I want somebody who snacks on Gwiffons[3] and eats Marbits for breakfast![4]

      • Well, he got exactly what he asked for.
    • Not to mention Parson's last words on Earth prior to being summoned:

"See if I could, like, literally escape into one of these games, I'd do it in a second. Just snap my fingers and teleport in? Absolutely. Bam! Seeya!"

Roadkill: Wish One: I want all my wishes loopholed out of any negative or ironic consequences. Wish Two: Apply wish number one to itself ex post facto. Wish Three: Make me the effin' master of the Universe NOW.

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Rob from Dimension Heroes wishing for a less boring summer. Boy, did he get that wish granted...
  • The Creepypasta titled "The Three Wishes", found on Encyclopedia Dramatica here (It may be one of the least NSFW pages on the article, but it's still ED, so exercise caution).
    • 95% of creepypasta is this.
  • Invoked in an intentionally nonsensical manner in the Something Awful parody "horror film" Doom House. "My name is Reginald P. Linux, and ever since my wife died, I've been very depressed. This is why I've been searching for the house of my dreams. But as a philosopher once said, be careful what you dream for, because you just... might... get it." Since he wasn't "dreaming for" a house haunted by an odd-looking figurine and built over a terrorist burial camp, this makes no sense, and it's only put there as a parody of bad writing.
  • Doctor Horribles Sing Along Blog is this trope played deadly straight. Billy/Dr. Horrible wants to be a supervillain and join the Evil League of Evil. He also wants to get a girlfriend. Well, he gets one of his wishes when the Evil League demands that he commit a heinous crime ("a murder would be nice of course") as a membership test. This turns out to be Foreshadowing, as the final confrontation with his Arch Enemy, Captain Hammer, ends with the latter's humiliating defeat and the entire world bowing to him in fear due to the murder of... his girlfriend, Penny. Cue his entry into the Evil League, having both gained and lost everything he wanted.
  • From one of The Cinema Snob's reviews, Beware Children At Play...

Snob: You know, the kids are evil, just fucking kill them!
(Massacre of children begins as the Snob watches in horror)
Snob:...I wasn't serious about killing them!

  • Dragonball Z Abridged has Gohan pointing out this trope in his nerdish way after he and Krillin realize the recently-revived Picollo was brought back to Namek... just not with them.
    • On that note, Krillin wished for the perfect Christmas tree. Shenron delivered. Thanks for the special, you two!

Reject Mall Santa: Turles, sir! Our ship has mysteriously changed course for a new planet: Earth!
Turles: Does it contain the sufficient amount of joy?
Reject Mall Santa: According to our sensors... yes!
Turles: Well, then... merry Christmas!

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • This trope is the entire premise of The Fairly OddParents.
    • Both subverted and affirmed. Subverted because Cosmo and Wanda have a huge book of rules to protect Timmy, and Wanda tries to warn Timmy when he makes a bad wish (Cosmo then grants it anyway). Affirmed by Norm the Genie.
  • This drives the movie Shrek Forever After. When Shrek wants "one day where I can be an ogre like I used to be," he gets it. Too bad the deal he made with the Big Bad has rather unpleasant consequences.
  • The Samurai Jack universe has a well that grants any wish. Once, three men wished that they would become the ultimate warriors. And they did! By becoming the well's eternal gaurdians. (Except... Jack beat them. So they weren't really ultimate. But, whatever.)
    • They were the ultimate warriors at the time their wish was granted, and Jack Took a Level in Badass to beat them (since he apparently didn't have enough levels already).
  • In the ReBoot episode "Enzo the Smart", Enzo fiddles with the system clock in order to make himself smarter than everyone else, and instead makes everyone else half as smart as he is. Since he's Just a Kid, this ends up making everyone else in the city of Mainframe really dumb.

Enzo: Dude! Everything's gone 8 bit!

  • Danny Phantom did this in one episode, though the wishing character was not aware that their wish would be granted. Notable for the fact that at the end of the episode the Reset Button remained largely untouched. All the characters retained full memories of everything that had transpired, and a permanent change to Danny's ghost costume was made.
    • There was another, earlier episode with the same villain with the same premise where Tucker wished he had ghost powers. The Reset Button was pressed because Tucker did not handle them all that well...
  • The pilot of Transformers Animated had Optimus Prime nostalgically wishing that he'd been around to fight Decepticons in the Great War. Ten minutes later the biggest, baddest Decepticon of all time shows up with his warship. It's not pretty.
  • Parodied in The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, "A Dumb Wish". Grim's mom gives Billy, Mandy, and Grim three wishes. Billy squanders his wish, and his arguing with Grim bugs Mandy enough that she wishes they would shut up, causing Billy and Grim's mouths to become sealed shut. Since Grim can't talk, Mandy gets his wish, and Grim and Billy compete to see who gets their mouth fixed by buttering up to Mandy. They only succeed in driving Mandy to the point that she shouts "I wish everyone in the entire world would just go away!" After everyone else on the planet disappears, Mandy seems to regret what she did, only to instead smile for one of the only times ever and say "Perfect".
    • Another episode, "Wishbones," also played with this trope. A Literal Genie trapped in the form of a talking, rhyming skull named Thromnambular spends most of the episode granting various characters wishes, which inevitably backfire. (It's explicitly said that it doesn't matter what they're wishing for, it'll screw them over regardless.) Thronambular is condemned to grant nine wishes before it can be freed from its skull form, more on that later. One example of a wish (and its reworking) is General Skarr wishing to be ruler of the world. A giant statue of himself rises from the ground beneath him and grows so large, he ends up in the upper atmosphere and suffocates. When it's Mandy's turn to make a wish, she realizes that any wish she makes will only turn out badly, so instead she decides to sell her wish to the highest bidder. A frustrated Grim pushes the Reset Button when he declares "I wish you two had never found that skull!" This wish does not backfire, instead returning everything to the way it was before Billy and Mandy found the skull. Grim then wishes that he was free of his promise to be Billy and Mandy's best friend, and that Thronambular was free of his imprisonment, hoping that Thronambular would be grateful enough not to stab him in the back. To Grim's horror, Thronambular grants the wish by trading their dilemmas: Thronambular had to keep Grim's promise, but gained a body. Grim found himself trapped as a skull, and bound to carry out the eight remaining wishes.
    • It's unclear if Thronambular really had to keep Grim's promise.
  • The Simpsons had a Halloween episode based on The Monkey's Paw. Homer buys the magic paw at a Bazaar of the Bizarre and he and his family try wishing for fame and wealth (which backfires when everyone gets sick of hearing about the Simpsons) world peace (which backfires when aliens attack the now defenseless Earth) and a turkey sandwich (which backfires because the turkey's a little dry.) Homer gives the monkey paw to Flanders in the hope that it backfires on him too, but the Rule of Funny ensures that no such thing happens.
  • "Wish World" from the Mighty Orbots series. Oh-No wishes to be human—and thanks to one of the Big Bad goons, she becomes human—but discover that Oh-No can't power up the Mighty Orbots in this form.
  • The episode "The Magic Coins" from My Little Pony.
    • Also, in "The Prince and the Ponies", the First-Tooth Baby Ponies were jealous of the extra attention the newborns were receiving and wished them ill only to be sorry when they saw it had actually happened. An important and applicable lesson for the target audience.
  • The entire premise of the Celebrity Toon Wish Kid. Nick gets a magical baseball glove that lets him have one wish a week - and that's it. And they're all temporary and can end at any time, meaning that every single wish he makes disappears at the worst possible time. All so he can learn this trope as a moral every single episode.
  • Played straight and averted in Gargoyles. When we first meet Puck, he plays Literal Genie to Demona. Later, it's revealed that when Puck revealed himself to Xanatos for the first time, he offered him either a single wish or a lifetime of loyal service as Owen Burnett. Proving himself to be the smartest person in the entire series, Xanatos chooses the latter.
    • Puck ended up on the receiving end of this too. One of his major motivations throughout the series is delaying his return to Avalon because he finds the mortal world too fun. At the end of "The Gathering", Oberon decides to give Puck what he wants...by trapping him in human form (except for the purposes of training Alexander in magic) and banishing him from Avalon forever.
  • The Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers episode "A Lad in a Lamp" has the heroes meet a malicious genie who would teach them just this if the episode didn't come with its very own built-in Reset Button.
    • A similar thing happens in an episode of DuckTales: both Scrooge McDuck and Flintheart Glomgold find a magical lamp. To decide who gets it, the genie tells them to race each other back home. Glomgold wins, and his first wish is for Scrooge to be stranded on a desert island. However, his second wish is that he could see the look on Scrooge's face, and he's sent to the same island to do so. Then he wishes that he "had never found this blasted lamp". Cue the Reset Button, and Scrooge this time wildly chases Glomgold out of the cave without finding the lamp, just before a cave-in traps it forever.
  • Extreme Ghostbusters: The team fought a wish-making ghost who functioned as a Literal Genie. It turned Eduardo into Kylie's cat (because he wanted to be closer to her). The episode was actaully titled "Be Careful What You Wish For".
  • A preview episode has Ben 10 easily dispatching criminals, and, in the end, he was wondering if there was any challenge left for him. The episode in question is the Series Finale, which introduced the Negative 10.
  • One episode of Wunschpunsch revolved around it - Wizards created a spell that granted one wish for every person in the city, but always in the way to backfire. The wizards used it later for themselves, sure they'd found a wish that would let them get rid of their boss and not backfire at them in any way. They were wrong.
  • Towards the end of TinkerBell and the Last Treasure, Tink accidentally uses the Mirror of Incanta, which she intended to use to repair the broken moonstone, when she snaps at her Non-Human Sidekick, "I wish you would be quiet for just one minute!"
  • The Spectacular Spider Man: In Group Therapy, just before going to sleep, Peter remarks, "I wish I could just wake up tomorrow, with Doc and his merry morons back in jail." Oh, he gets his wish alright. But at the cost of losing himself to the symbiote, waking up exhausted, and being out of the loop for a whole day that his aunt has had a heart attack.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants had an episode that featured Mr. Krabs wishing for the power to be able to talk to money. It turns out that money always wants to be spent.
  • Cow and Chicken also had this in an self titled episode. It turns out Chicken wished Cow would shut up, which backfires as Cow cannot warn Chicken of the dangers of the road to prevent him from getting hit and she cannot speak during the testimony when Chicken is put into prison for 50 years.
  • The Human CentiPad epsidoe of South Park has Cartman demanding God to "give me a courtesy lick before I get fucked!" after Cartman loses his Human Centipede/iPad hybrid. God complies by smiting Cartman with a bolt of lightning, landing Cartman in the hospital.
  • The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack: In "Wishing Not so Well", K'nuckles wishes to be left alone and is immediately finds himself in a Stormalong that contains no other people. It doesn't work out so well for him.
  • In Phineas and Ferb Get Busted, Candace busts Phineas and Ferb on building an unsafe airlift, and their mother sends them away to a reformatory school; at first, Candace is glad they are away, but it is not too long before she begins to miss them. It Gets Worse when she finds out how the reformatory school is run. Candace's friend Stacy even calls her out on this:

Stacy: You finally have everything you ever wanted. Call me when you get over it!

  • In the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "The Cutie Pox", Apple Bloom uses a magical flower called "Heart's Desire" to finally get her Cutie Mark. Unfortunately, over the course of the day she gets several more cutie marks, each of which brings both a new talent and a compulsion to practice that talent endlessly, whether it's window-washing, tap-dancing, speaking French, or lion-taming.
    • The theme also shows up in "Sisterhooves Social," when Rarity wants to get away from Sweetie Belle earlier on but misses her later on, or "Green Isn't Your Colour," when Rarity is so jealous of Fluttershy's fame as a model that she wishes Fluttershy would just humiliate herself on-stage, and Rarity feels awful when it actually happens. Even the first two episodes seem to have a hint of this with Twilight Sparkle at first not wanting to make new friends, only to find out later that "just when I learn how wonderful it is to have friends, I have to leave them." That is a milder case, though, as it turns out Celestia lets Twilight stay in Ponyville with her new friends anyway.
    • A hint of this also shows up in "May The Best Pet Win," with Rainbow Dash insisting earlier on that she wanted a fast, agile, flying animal for a pet... and after putting the animals through competitions testing these (among other) traits she found out that the falcon met her standards the most... but by the time she found this out, she had evidently changed her mind about what she wanted in a pet after all, as she clearly wasn't happy about being told that the falcon won. Of course, she found out a loophole in her rules that allowed her to adopt a tortoise instead, in a clear contrast to what she at first wanted.
  • In the Young Justice episode "Misplaced", Zatanna tells Artemis how she wished her Overprotective Dad would give her some space. The very next second, her father (and the rest of the adults) disappear before them. At the end of the episode, Zatara sacrifices himself so that Nabu wouldn't possess Zatanna. She may never get her father back.
  • Garfield and Friends: In one episode, Garfield found a wishing well and wished there were no more mondays. At first, when he learned the wish became true, he was happy. A few weeks later, Garfield felt the drawbacks of a world without mondays: the streets were full of garbage because garbagemen only came at Mondays; gyms that used to be open for all days of the week were closed; movie theaters never showed new movies because they only changed their movies at Mondays; Jon couldn't buy more food because he always received his paychecks at Mondays; and he always made lasagna at Mondays. Being a Big Eater, the two last bits were what horrified Garfield the most. He then returned to the wishing well, desperately asking for the mondays to be back. The well refused and threatened to remove other stuff, until the well's mother, who revealed they were actually aliens who look like wells, forced him to restore everything back to normal. Garfield then started loving Mondays. At least until he was reminded of why he hated them in the first place.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • The Open-Source Wish Project tries to find perfect, loophole-less wordings for wishes to avert this trope. While it might work against the Jerkass Genie, it doesn't really strike at the heart of the lesson of this trope; if you get exactly the thing you wanted, there's still the possibility you'll find you don't like it.
  • In a rough flowchart of the endings for Mass Effect 3, BioWare writer supposedly noted that he wanted the endings to cause LOTS OF SPECULATION FROM EVERYONE. He/They got his/their wish; Mass Effect 3's ending is quickly becoming as infamous for being infuriatingly confusing and nonsensical as that of Lost and that of Neon Genesis Evangelion, the Trope Codifier for Gainax Endings.
  • In 2001, the city of Buffalo, NY had no snow in November and most of December, and it was possible that the city would have no snow on Christmas. So on Christmas Eve, everyone in Buffalo wished for a white Christmas. The next day, they awoke to the beginning of a 5-day blizzard that killed 4 people and dropped seven feet of snow onto the city. Whoops.
  • During the years 2005-2006 many people in USA and UK desperately wished for real estate prices to fall. They did fall in 2007 - and we see the results.
  • Richard Heene's attempt to become a reality star with his Balloon Boy stunt on October 15, 2009. Looks like he succeeded, just not in the way he had hoped for.
  • After viewing his teammate going past him for the win as an act of betrayal, Gilles Villeneuve vowed never to speak to Didier Pironi ever again. He got it: Villeneuve was killed in qualifying the very next race.
  • Robert Pattinson, star of the highly divisive Twilight saga only auditioned for the money and the chance to work with his celebrity crush. He now is stalked by fans and receives death threats from haters, even years after the film series finished. And it gets worse - he thinks the saga is stupid in every way. At least he managed to date his costar Stewart, but that relation ended when she cheated on him with the director of a film she starred.
  • As it was entering its third season, the producers of Moral Orel asked the creators to give them the darkest season they could. And boy did they get it. One episode in particular, the infamous "Alone" was so dark, the producers sliced season threes original episode count in half, and axed the show.
  • Chicago Bears fans wished to be rid of Rex Grossman for throwing too many interceptions (despite leading them to the Super Bowl in his first season as a starter). Then came along Jay Cutler who lead the NFL in interceptions.
  • Fanboys of Nintendo wanted the company to reign supreme in the Console Wars after taking a beating from Sony for two generations in a row. The Wii comes along and puts Nintendo back on top, but at the expense of the hardcore fans as Nintendo marketed the majority of its gaming to the casuals. Cue nerd rage.
    • Speaking of gaming, we have some contemporary gamers complaining about too many video game sequels. Cue the cancellation of the long-awaited Mega Man Legends 3 and Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth 2 not getting localized. One begins to wonder if there really is such a thing as a Monkey's Paw and who the hell's making wishes on it...
    • Video game fans have said that game controls were getting stagnant since there was a lack of arcades or addons. Cue the Wii, announcing the addition of motion controls into the home, something previously only seen in certain arcade machines...and everyone saying they wanted to go back to just button-pressing.
    • Oh, we're not done yet - gamers have also bitched on why more people weren't playing games, or were wishing games were a bit more streamlined. Now they cry non-stop about how It's Popular, Now It Sucks or "Consolitis". See Nostalgia Filter.
  • This is a common consequence of a phenomenon known as "Punishment voting", when people vote in masse for the ideological opposite of whoever is in power now, just to get that person out of office and have a different face and political party. Usually, the newcomer candidate turns out to be the opposite of what the voters (and, sometimes, the candidate sponsors) wanted. If you combine that with Nostalgia Filter, the results can be awful.
    • Punishment voting also takes place in referendums, a notable example being Brexit
  • When Lena, a young German girl, moved out from her Parents' house at 18 (this was in 2007), they were not happy about it and had repeatedly tried to convince her to come back. Then Lena got caught in the 2010 Love Parade Disaster. Since then, she returned to her parent's house - and she refuses to leave and constantly clings to her parents.
  • Many lottery winners encounter this, due to not being used to handling such large amounts of money. It's estimated 60% of them wind up bankrupt within a year. See A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted.
  • The temperance movement in America got its wish with the Prohibition in the early 1920s. But far from making the country a nation of teetotallers, it only forced an entire industry into the hands of the Black Market, encouraged illicit alcohol production and drinking in speakeasy parlours, and led to an unworkable ban that underpaid and corrupt police officers struggled to uphold. The problems only receded when Prohibition was repealed in 1933.
  • Surely a lot of people must have wished growing up that pizza could be considered a vegetable. Now that it is, one cannot help but think many of these same people must find it bittersweet.
  • Carrie Fisher had complained about how boring Princess Leia's wardrobe was from the first two Star Wars movies, so George Lucas had wardrobe make the iconic Slave Leia costume for Return of the Jedi. She would describe it as "what supermodels will eventually wear in the seventh ring of hell".
  • Lyndon B. Johnson was actually rather peeved when he got the Democratic nomination for vice president in 1960—you see, he wanted the top job, not the post that his predecessor and fellow Texan John Nance Garner had described as "not worth a bucket of warm piss." Then John F. Kennedy got shot, and LBJ became one of the most unpopular presidents in US history. (True, he would eventually be considered one of the better Presidents overall, despite that whole Vietnam thing—but that comes as a small consolation to a man who's been dead for decades).
  • "If the Germans want a war of extermination, then they will get one." - Josef Stalin, in a speech in November 1941.
  • For that matter, we can add It's Popular, Now It Sucks to this - a lot of people wish for certain franchises and the like to be more popular. Then all of a sudden, half their fans turn their backs on it when it does become popular, as the fandom gets a sudden influx of newbies who bring the Fan Dumb with them.


Notes

  1. In the original Russian he says destroyed
  2. Parson enjoys playing table top wargames, a lot
  3. Gwiffons look exactly like marshmallow Peeps.
  4. Parson calls marshmallow bits (like the kind you find in Lucky Charms) "Marbits= Marshmallow bits".